Small Actions, Big difference: Unilever's Game Plan


It turns out that 150 million times a day someone somewhere chooses a Unilever product. From Lux to Kwality Walls, Wheel detergent and Fair & Lovely, Hindustan Unilever Company continues to grow as one of the most respected FMCG companies in India. A company with a plethora of products in its kitty, creating strategies to market a varied product range calls for a strategy of its own. And what could be the A1 game plan to sell cheap products to millions? Hire the best (and the most expensive) brains in the industry, of course. In conversation with Ateet Mehta, Media Services Head at HUL, we gain perspective on how  it all falls together.

EE: Unilever spends a significant amount of sum in its advertising. Out of your entire budget, how much do you devote specifically to experiential marketing?

It’s very difficult to qualify numbers in terms of how much money is spent on experiential marketing. It all depends upon the brand’s objective and the jobs to be done. So if a job to be done for a brand is to communicate the message and give it an engagement then the expenses will be higher but if a brand’s job is to only create sales and awareness for the brand then it will be much lower. So it’s completely dependent upon the brand’s objective.

EE: What do you think about experiential marketing as a marketing campaign? Is it more effective than over-the-line marketing campaigns?

There are no right or wrong answers. It again depends upon the objectives. So today, if I want to showcase that by using a particular shampoo you will get very, very smooth hair or a nice bounce to your hair then it is more effectively done by experiential marketing because you’re giving the consumers a demonstration of your product. But if I have to showcase something which does not require product demonstration but a regular communication then experiential will not make sense. So it’s completely dependent upon what message you’re trying to put across.

EE: You have big and small brands in your portfolio. As Unilever, how  do you arrive at a marketing strategy targeted at multiple brands?

Unilever has a plethora of brands catering to each and every consumer segment. At the bottom of the pyramid there are brands like Lifebuoy and at the top, high end brands like Pond’s Age Miracle and the recently launched Toni and Guy Range. Marketing strategy is a function of a brand’s marketing communication objective and its marketing measurable objectives. So if the objective is to reach as many people as possible then it’s all about broadcast media. If I want to reach pan India then certainly the strategy is to use television, which is a mass communication channel. But if the marketing objective is to reach 2 million people out of the billion people in the country, residing in the 6 metros, then mass media does not make sense. At that point you look at options that are particularly catering to the specific needs of the target audience, both in terms of demographic and psychograhic. You select mediums that appeal to them, the consumer behaviour and the media they consume and on that basis you decide the strategy. For eg, Fair and Lovely, which is a pan India brand and the largest selling fairness cream in the country, it would require a mass media approach. But for Toni and Guy and Tresemme, which are shampoo brands selling in some parts of the country, focussed on modern trade, television does not make sense. Then you look at other mediums like digital and hard core non-casting segmented targeting campaigns.

EE: The missed call initiative engaged 18 million people. Do you foresee similar initiatives for other brands as well?

After the Wheel Missed Call Activity there have been a plethora of brands that have joined in this campaign. Last year, we had signed Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha for our Red Label brand of tea – it was missed call activity with a call to action. Like Red Label there have been similar campaigns for Fair & Lovely and a number of our laundry brands, so all brands that are catering to that segment of the society where a feature phone is the only device we are able to reach and television is not reached because of power shortage or because the overall presentation of television is less, feature phone features are used extensively to reach these consumers

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